Sometime in the past it was just me and my TBI, on the battlefield. We stared across at each other, waiting to see who would blink before charging. Knowing there was a lot at stake, a great tension filled the air. This was the most important battle I would ever have in my life.
I’m not really sure how far into my TBI experience this occurred. I do know, however, that early on after my injury I was just trying to exist, to get by, and only later, after I had acquired the tools and knowledge I would need to effectively battle my TBI, was I ready.
It took time to get to that point, but at that moment, when it came time for me to make a decision, to make a move, I was ready; like a gladiator in the ancient Coliseum, with thousands cheering me on. This was a fight to the death, or as I prefer to think of it: a fight to the life. No matter how scary that moment was for me, when I was putting it all on the line, it was also life affirming; finally asserting myself and my right to live a fulfilled life; breathing into me the oxygen I would need to live my life on my terms. This was about me taking a huge step forward.
The Big Lesson
That one, single life changing moment can happen at anytime and under any circumstances, and even though we may not always feel like we are ready, those singular moments must be taken advantage of when presented to us TBI survivors. These are when the opportunity arises to claim your life for your own, and they always have one thing in common: they are marked by the realization that the quality of your “Post-TBI Life ” is up to you.
This was the moment I decided to take my life back.
Out of the ruins and despair of what we call recovery or rehabilitation, often we can find the clarity we need to live our lives, for, isn’t that what we are all trying to do? Live our lives?
This is what happened to me:
Somewhere along the line I snapped to attention and came to the conclusion that everything was up to me and me alone. I’m not aware of any one thing that caused me to finally realize that I had the power to affect my own life, regardless of my situation or how hopeless things seemed. But something did, and at that point it wasn’t about me versus my TBI. It was me, a person in the world, getting my life back.
The focus wasn’t on getting back the stuff I had lost: the focus was about me, today, moving forward, with no excuses. In other words: I was the way I was, and it didn’t matter the reason why.
We can be so much more than our brain injuries
As Dr. Larry Schutz says in his book, “Head Injury Recovery in Real Life,” where he examines a number of case studies of severe brain injury, “Every exceptional outcome was created by the survivor, through a deliberate, determined effort to make his or her behavior work better. Every recovery required active effort and self correction, and every one still requires the activities today.”
Schultz puts the onus directly on us. This is where it gets really complicated and really beautiful.
In my mind, there are three areas to pay attention to when talking about life after brain injury. These three components are the mental, emotional and the physical.
The physical is the actual grunt work, the day to day work you must put into making your life better. The physical is the most obvious, the thing everyone else sees and judges you by, and to many people, the most pressing and important.
Who’s your daddy?
However important the physical stuff is, we must understand that the physical has a boss who tells it what to do, how to do it, and how you’re going to feel, both while you’re doing it and when you’re done. That boss is your mental state. In the end, the thinking part of your brain, injured or not, is the ruler of the kingdom, the supreme being.
How we approach life after TBI (attitude, letting things bother you, etc.) directly affects our ability to function adequately and live a fulfilled life.
When I realized that the mental aspect of being a human being was so important to the things I did, how I did them, and how I felt about them, I gave myself the opportunity to become more powerful than I ever could imagine. It was the ultimate freedom, realizing that myself and my consciously made decisions could have so much influence.
I gave myself permission to be as I was and accept myself .
I, and not my TBI, am the boss of me.